Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against the motion that is before us today. It is not a complicated motion, but it certainly is a misleading motion. It really runs counter to the testimony that we heard before the Standing Committee on Public Safety with regard to Bill C-391.
There are a number of reasons that I believe this motion needs to be defeated. The primary reason I am going to begin with is the need for my bill and this issue to come before members of Parliament, who represent Canadians.
This is an issue that Canadians have been watching for the last 15 years and we know that even over the last several months and weeks Canadians have been, on both sides of this issue, looking to see what the arguments are for registry and against registry. However, it is time for members of Parliament to stand in their place and to vote either to scrap the long gun registry or to keep it.
What this motion does is actually stop debate on the long gun registry. Therefore, the first reason that the motion needs to be defeated is so that we can proceed with the bill and it can be voted on by all the members of Parliament and they can represent their constituents' wishes.
As I have been travelling around the ridings throughout northwestern Ontario, throughout the Yukon, and throughout Canada, and as I listened to testimony at the standing committee, there are a number of myths that have been perpetuated in regard to the long gun registry. Those myths thankfully are being dispelled and have been dispelled through testimony we heard.
One of the first myths is that police officers check the long gun registry 11,000 times a day. There are the facts, but sometimes the facts do not actually tell the truth of the story. The fact is that the registry, the entire Canadian firearms database, is checked probably between 8,000 and 11,000 times a day, but that does not constitute police officers purposely going in to directly check the long gun registry.
What that means is that police database systems are set up to automatically check the registry any time they even pull someone over to check a licence plate. If someone is speeding, if a tail light is broken, if they have to pull someone over, across this country what happens when they put in the vehicle licence plate is that it automatically hits the firearms registry.
If there is any kind of activity going on, if someone purchases and registers a firearm, if staff go into the registry, it registers a hit.
So the truth is not that police officers are looking at the registry and making tactical decisions based on the information, because it is happening automatically.
I am going to quote the chief of the Ottawa Police Service, Vern White. He said about the automatic checks:
To me, that's not an actual check of the system.
I think it is important that police realize that. Why do we not actually speak truthfully about what police are doing and if they are using the registry?
One of the reasons they told us that they do not use it is because they actually cannot depend on the information in the registry. According to the RCMP evaluation that has been quoted and discussed, of all the firearms that are acquired and confiscated in the commission of a crime, only 46% of those long guns are actually registered.
We know there are about 6.5 million long guns registered right now in the database. There are probably twice that amount of long guns in Canada. Therefore, we know and police officers have told us that when they go on a call they do not believe the information in the registry.
They believe the information in the licensing part of the database. If they see that someone has a possession and acquisition licence, or a possession-only licence, it gives them an indication if there possibly could be firearms.
One of the important things to note is that if a person has a licence to possess a firearm and they have registered long guns, they do not have to store them at their house. They can legally store them somewhere else.
Police know that. Perhaps some members of Parliament do not know that, but police know that. Therefore, when they go on a call, they are not looking at the registry and believing that if the registry says there are two firearms, then there are two firearms and if they find those two, they are safe. Absolutely not.
I will quote Chief Constable Bob Rich, of the Abbotsford Police Department:
[I]t's my firm belief that the registry is horrifically inaccurate. I talk to my investigators and I talk to my gun expert, and in story after story, whenever they've tried to use it, the information in it is wrong. [...] So I find my investigators actually don't rely on the registry. [...] I think a flawed system is worse than any system.
Sergeant Duane Rutledge who is head of emergency response in Nova Scotia said:
It's an unreliable system....In other words, I have no hesitation in saying that in my opinion, the long-gun registry does not help police stop violence or make these communities safer from violence. And there's no evidence that it has ever saved a single life on its own merits.
We heard from the chief of police in the Calgary Police Department. Calgary is one of the major cities in Canada. It has a lot of challenges in the things its deals with in gun crime. The chief of the Calgary Police Department, Rick Hanson, said unequivocally that he did not support the long-gun registry.
Again, police officers cannot count on the information. It is a partial database and it is an unreliable one. What they are looking at is the licensing information. Does somebody have the potential to own a firearm?
That myth has been dispelled. We know front line officers do not use the registry. They have overwhelmingly flooded all of us with emails and phone calls. Some of the strongest supporters of my bill, I am proud to say, are front line police officers.
Another myth is the cost of the long gun registry. We know the Auditor General told us that it cost almost $1 billion to set up. Some of the estimates are upwards of $2 billion. Let us just look at the current costs.
We know that right now the cost to implement the registry is about $68 million and that only takes into account the federal portion of the costs. One of the things nobody talks about is the cost to provincial and municipal governments. Now provinces are the ones left administering police services, unless it is the RCMP.
Police officers in provinces and municipalities are the ones who have to go out and ensure that the registry is actually complied with. They are the ones who are using their resources to compile the information such as who has a licence, who has a registration, cross-reference, did someone miss filling out a paper somewhere. Then they have to go, knock on people's doors and tell them that they have broken a paper law.
What they are not finding are drug dealers, gangsters or people who are committing crimes with firearms. They are spending their precious time and resources tracking down people who are using their firearms for legitimate purposes.
What is the cost to those police officers, municipalities and provinces? The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says that just to maintain the registry is approximately $106 million.
If we look at what it would cost to register the 7 million-plus long guns that are still out there, I am worried that if it cost $2 billion to register 6.5 million long guns, what is it going to cost to register another 7 million long guns?
Back 15 years ago we heard that the long gun registry would only cost $2 million, and it cost $2 billion. Now we are hearing only $4 million. Does that mean it might cost $4 billion to actually carry it out and make it accurate? I think Canadians overwhelmingly want to see the money go towards fighting crime, criminal activity and putting criminals in jail.
The other myth is that the long gun registry protects women and it stops domestic violence and suicide. That is one of the most misleading and inaccurate statements that has been used in this argument. Emergency doctors are dealing with suicide and they are dealing with people who are coming to the hospitals wounded, sometimes by accident. Police officers are dealing with issues of domestic violence.
Where we can actually have an impact to ensure that people who should not have guns do not get guns is in the licensing process. That is where they are screened and are stopped from getting a gun. They go through a background check.
This is an important process and we need to ensure it is strong, but once people have a gun, spending between $106 million and $2 billion to count their guns does nothing to stop violence. We need programs in place to help families. We need programs in place to help men and women who are dealing with depression, with family crisis, with young people who are at risk for drug and gang activity.
I ask all members of the House to vote against this motion. I ask members from the NDP to stand on principle, to stand on what they have said to their constituents time after time again. I ask that the member for Yukon stand up for his constituency.
I ask members to vote against this motion and let Bill C-391 go through. Let us kill this long gun registry.